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Understaffing of Scottish Coastguard a risk to lives

Fears have been raised that Coastguard cutbacks are putting “lives in danger” around the coasts of the north and north-east.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) observed 1,970 false alarms across Scotland since 2016, with 123 or 6% classed as hoaxes.

Some 405 calls were recorded between Brora in the north and Aberdeen in the south, more than one fifth of the Scottish total.

Malicious calls made up 5.4% of contacts.

The MCA provides a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast, together with international search and rescue through HM Coastguard.

Aberdeen is home to the HM Coastguard Operations Centre and Coastal Operations Base.

And a local MP has praised the “round-the-clock dedication” of paid and volunteer coastguards, which he said often does not make the news.

Scottish Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, David Duguid, said: “Across Scotland and the UK, coastguard personnel are involved in thousands of callouts every year.

“They are dedicated right around the clock like any other emergency service.

“Members of the public usually only hear about their brave exploits at cliff rescues or when taking part in multi-agency operations.

“But these figures confirm just how much work goes in to checking falls alarms – and unfortunately the extent to which their heroism can be abused.

“Each one of these idiotic calls in the north-east could have put lives in danger.”

The MCA said false alarms are classified as good intent or malicious intent by the officer who takes the call.

Over the past two years, the Inverness Coastguard base has been one of the very busiest in the UK.

During the first three months of 2018, Rescue 951, based at Inverness Airport, was sent out on 90 “taskings” – which equates to one callout a day.

Crews were regularly called into action over the mountainous areas of Lochaber and the Cairngorms.

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